Tuesday, October 17th 2017

The True Confession of John Edwards

johnathon-edwards.JPGFATHER DAVID RICKEY — In the public perception, the mighty are just waiting for a fall — and in the public mind the rush to watch the fall is swift.

It is always easier to anticipate, or watch, someone else fall, than to do personal reflection. The public can say: See, they are just like me — or worse.

So, the tabloid-nurtured masses missed the import of John Edwards’ recent true confession: (left, with his wife, Elizabeth, and activist actors Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon). It wasn’t about the affair, it was about his inner awakening:

I started to believe that I was special and became increasingly egocentric and narcissistic.

A confession’s value is less about outward behavior than about inner awareness. Few of us, when we confess to something, actually do the work of contrition and ultimate repentence (turning around) that produces growth.

Most public confessions are about, “OK, I did it, now let me go.”

In contrast, Edwards’ statement suggests a desire both to keep an appropriate boundary between himself and family and the media — and an equally dense desire to work on himself to correct the failings he has observed in himself.

We rarely see in a public figure this sort of willingness to enter into self-examination, let alone a determination to grow. Consider Bill Clinton, or Larry Craig.

Nor does the media take note when self-awareness leads to metanoia. Media commentators are painting Reille Hunter as a flake or a floozy. But just as Edwards is now having an inner awakening in self-awareness, she had claimed to have had an awakening of her own shortly before meeting him. If her description of entering a passage of realization can be taken at face value, there’s a kind of X-Factor logic for her dynamic with John Edwards becoming a catalyst for the same kind of experience in him.

As with individuals, the media tends to feed an eagerness to escape from looking within by focusing on the “exploits” of others, especially those with higher profiles.

I imagine that readers here know more about how personal mistakes or “bad” choices often lead (and perhaps are even intended to lead) to the inner work of personal growth.

Carl Jung developed the concept that we sometimes actually create a situation that sets up a strong tension in order to “force” us to do the work of growing to a new level of consciousness.

I hope, for John Edward’s sake and for the sake of the issues he champions, his journey will indeed lead to greater conscious growth. And I hope for the rest of us that the media frenzy will dissipate, and that we can get back to concentrating on the issues that really matter.

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15 Comments on “The True Confession of John Edwards”

  1. Can you have an awakening (as Hunter claims to have had prior to her affair) and then fall asleep at the wheel again?

    I think it more likely that all she was seeking was excuses for her behavior...

  2. Edwards certainly had a huge ego, and many noted just how self-serving it seemed when he decided to pursue a presidential bid last year, anyway -- that is, in spite of his wife Elizabeth's incurable Stage 4 cancer.

    I see the affair as a classic case of what Jung talked about: the psyche trying to free itself, seeking to create more space for itself, by unconsciously setting up a drama perfectly designed to crack the hard surface of the ego's shell -- and the station in society it had built for itself.

    Like you wrote, Edwards' sentence where he publicly owns his narcissism is a singular example of self-awareness in the political arena.

    (Having said that, I'm still challenged to take his denial of paternity at face value :)

  3. Yeah, it's hard to take any pronouncement of contrition at face value when it comes from a politician. Let's face it, Edwards' is only talking because he got caught. Heck, he admitted such. At first, I was impressed with Edwards' statement -- his admission of narcissistic behavior -- and I suppose it's good that he's putting some self-awareness behind his selfish acts and the damage he has caused.

    Many people find it necessary to create a volcanic mess (even if they do so subconsciously) to force them to embark on a journey of self-reflection, spirituality and, ultimately, happiness. Just ask any member of AA, the rooms of which are filled with people describing their "bottoms" that forced them to change their lives or die. Maybe that's what's going on with Edwards, that at core he really is a miserable man and he needed to shatter his life before he could make changes necessary to lead a happy and useful life. I like to think that. But ultimately that is a charitable view.

  4. Of course it's always possible to fall asleep after an awakening. The evolution of consciousness requires great vigilance. I don't think one can make a blanket judgement about an "affair". Yes it is a violation of social ethics. However sometimes we choose to act beyond accepted social ethics with a higher purpose. I have to admit I jumped to a level of skepticism when I heard about her "Malibu Guru", but Malibu is just a geographical location like San Francisco (which is held in contempt by many more "grounded" Easterners).

    What is actually going on in either Edwards' or Hunter's souls only time will tell and it may not tell us.

  5. John P, you describe the tarot card, The Tower.

    (Many people find it necessary to create a volcanic mess (even if they do so subconsciously) to force them to embark on a journey of self-reflection, spirituality and, ultimately, happiness. )

    But ultimately, whether he comes clean or not, y'all have got 300 million people to choose a president from. You don't need one who doesn't hold a promise (or vow) sacred.

    Father David, thank you for your answer to my question about Hunter. It's very well considered and I appreciate it.

  6. The whole John Edwards thing is so depressing: here is a guy that you think is a decent person, empathetic, compassionate to those less advantaged than his lucky life...and always portrayed as such an amazing husband.But sure enough, he is like every other politician!! Not to be trusted...they are all the same! Wonder what his daughters think!!!
    Another 'wonderful' role model!

  7. i don't feel very spiritual saying this, but "I don't f@#*ing care about john edwards' affair." I don't care that lisa druck changed her name to rielle hunter; although, I do think it's a bit telling... in a scary sort of way.

    why do individuals cheat? why am i even asking that question? every person has their own reasons, their own environmental situations and their own sequences of events that lead up to the incident. the outcomes are all different. unfortunately, just because everyone in the US knows who john edwards is (hopefully), his affair and his private life have become a media rave. it's too bad. to hell with america's fame obsessed culture. start thinking about yourself and your life.

    i do feel slightly negative saying this, but it is how i feel...

  8. It's incredible looking at John Edwards in that photo with Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins on his jet plane. His wife has cancer. She already knew that He cheated on her. And he sits there looking so serious and important. And all the while he and she (and she) know that the man running for president broke the social contract of his tribe, his family and his church -- for what it's worth.

    As he said in his written statement, he only served a single tribe: his personality, a public image.

    At least the public who bought into this narrative to whatever degree, can now be released from the illusion

  9. While I am pleased with the amount of dialogue this original posting has created, I am struck by how we respond (or react, perhaps more accurately) when the person is "High Profile". Where ever the profile is, it is a person. I am reminded of two statements claimed to be from Jesus. "Let he(she) who is without sin cast the first stone." and "Remove the plank out of your own eye before trying to remove the speck out of your neighbors. Yes I was disappointed too when I read about John Edwards. Probably because I had hoped for s "purer" life. But this action doesn't need to bring him down. If it is true that it shows that he is human like the rest of us, perhaps it would be better for the rest of us to aspire to what John Edwards claims to aspire to - to care for the rest of humanity that is of the same value that we are. Hopefully in our striving to care for others we will be forgiven our failings (I, for one, have a long list)
    David Rickey

  10. Father David, with respect, I disagree. This should bring him down (as a politician). The president should be held to a higher standard.

    It's up to his wife to forgive and it appears she has and I wish them both the best.

    But I don't want a president who lies and cheats, now or then. I believe honesty and impulse control are essential qualities in a leader. And I'm not so sure they can be taught. Maybe they can... but I wouldn't bet my country on it.

  11. This is an interesting psychological, moral, spiritual and hence political issue: Wanting a leader who is held to a higher standard - higher, that is, than other human beings. Or maybe better put, the issue is that a political leader has to live up to (always) that higher standard. The question for me is "Is a leader capable of acknowledging a failing, working on it, and growing?" I personally have more trust in someone who can make a mistake, even a big one, recognize it, learn from it and grow, then someone who never seems to do that inner work. (Like the present leader of the free world.) Because of my own mistakes, I believe I have more self-awareness, and a bit more fortitude to do better next time.

    The pressures of high office make honesty and impulse control much more difficult. (Alan Greenspan claims in his book "The Age of Turbulance" that he tried to get a bill past to the effect that anyone who was willing to do what it took to become president shouldn't be allowed to be president.) We have checks and balances in the government precisely because we know that the human beings that make up government make mistakes, either willingly or unconsciously. There are checks a balances within the individual also - some call them Ego, Id and Super-Ego. I prefer Body, Mind and Spirit. Spirit being, for me, the influence that seeks to "correct" my mind and sometimes over-rule my body (or at least my reptilian brain).

    Kabbalah speaks of more light energy (grace) being available to one who struggles to grow than one who always does the right thing. Perhaps the "bringing down" needs to be more "developing humility" than "falling ifrom grace". Time will tell whether that humility is, in fact, developing. If it does, it might make for an even better leader.

  12. "The pressures of high office make honesty and impulse control much more difficult."

    LOL. Nobody said it was going to be easy. If you aren't up to the task, get yourself a job as a parking lot attendant.

    I hold leaders to a higher standard because they ARE leaders. I expect they have reached a higher plane of consciousness. At least the ones I vote for :)

    I think the best example of a leader who IS up to the task is the Dalai Lama.

  13. Why are we so reactive to cheating?

    It seems that in order to receive valuable air time and media attention, it is an almost safe gambit: being a celebrity and confessing about cheating your partner. What is it that grabs collective attention to such an act?

    This question is even more perplexing due to the background cultural mode: The divorce rate is high; the nuclear family is in a process of adjusting itself to a new paradigm; serial monogamy is a valid lifestyle. But, still, there is a certain muscle in the collective attention that has a spasm when facing a side love affair.

    Is it pure naivety when people commit totally to each other in a marriage ceremony? Is it pure blindness that couples still believe in the concept of one lasting love? And… Is it ignorance to hold to a concept that politicians are not asking for self-power, but for a post to benefit and be of service to others?

    Many spiritual scriptures point out that as long as one is relying on the personality, the ego, the small 'S' self as the source of attraction in relationship -- the relationship is limited.

    In these days during which a new paradigm is evoloving, we all are learning how to build relationship upon the aspect of ourselves which is infinite, unconditioned -- and is love. Some of the politicians of today cannot lead the way; It is up to us. We are the initiator of the new emergent paradigm of relationship -- relationship which is based on the big 'S' self, and the greater aspect of our being.

  14. Why are we so reactive to cheating? Being cheated, especially in love, is one of the biggest assaults on the Ego. It is experienced as a violation of a powerful self identity. It is rare to ask "Why did you do this?" Instead we ask "Why did you do this to me? How could you?!"

    Any insecurity is brought immediately to the surface, and rather than looking deep into our own fragile sense of being OK, we want to lash out at the one that has brought our wounded ego into our awareness.

    Monogamy offers the illusive possibility of eternal assurance that I am loveable. When someone says "I will always love you." it rarely means "even if you cheat on me" which implies that the truth is "I will always love you as long as you always love me."

    The old word for "cheating" is "Adultery" and this gets closer to the matter. The problem with cheating is that it adulterates - waters down - an intensity of relationship that is supposed to foster self-exploration and psychic growth. What is so difficult to grasp in this discussion is that relationships are not about two individuals - me and you. From a deep spiritual point of view, every "individual" is merely another attempt for the collective to evolve. This doesn't diminish the individual. Rather it gives the "individual" cosmic importance. Each of us is here to further the evolution of consciousness. Every event that happens to "me" happens to give me the opportunity to work on my issues so I can help the collective grow. This is true even of painful experiences like being cheated on.

    Again, it doesn't justify the cheater. They have their own spiritual work to do. But it does deny each of us the right to feel "victim". Instead it calls each of us to do the work that answers "Why is this happening to me?" Like Mission Impossible, it is giving us a mission, and asks whether we are willing to accept it.

  15. its *kind* of like the Buddhist thing of thanking your enemy for an opportunity to show (and feel) compassion.

    BUT I do think that truth is the most important thing, period. Truth first, compassion second.

    IF you make a mistake, yes, of course, learn from it and breathe in, breathe out, move on (that's Jimmy Buffett).

    My fear is that too much navel-gazing gives you excuses *before* the fact. (I *know* this is wrong, but hey, I'll grow...)

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